Now, no one would claim that Whistler’s apres-ski and nightlife is in the league of Ischgl, St Anton or Mayrhofen. But arriving there from Sun Peaks is a culture shock on the level of breezing into Kitzbuhel on Hahnenkamm day.
We’ve felt like wide-eyed country boys in the big city. Bright lights, restaurants, bars and shops everywhere you look. Not what we’ve been used to in lovely but, well what shall we say, quiet, relaxed and restrained Sun Peaks.
Where should we go first…the famous GLC (Garibaldi Lift Company) bar and grill? Yes, let’s. We got in well before the lifts closed, so were able to find a table. It gets incredibly packed a bit later on. Then on to the Longhorn Saloon, like the GLC at the base of the slopes. And what’s this, a drink we’ve never seen before! Is it a beer, is it a margarita? Well, yes, correct on both counts – it’s a combination of the two, a Bulldog. The upturned bottle of Corona is held in a cunningly-devised cradle and discharges gradually into the margarita as you drink it…and very refreshing it is too after a day on the Whistler-Blackcomb slopes.
Yes, could I have another of those please, I asked a passing waitress. Oh, you’re not a waitress…you’re a what? A masseuse? Here in the bar? How much – a buck a minute? Ok, I’ll have five minutes’ worth please. No, I’m not the last of the big spenders. I’ll need at least ten minutes for it to be effective? OK, if you say so, I’ll have ten dollars’ worth.
Yes, it’s all part of the service at the Longhorn. A charming masseuse who goes from table to table purveying her skills. A neck, shoulder and back massage while you sip your Bulldog, after a day of excellent skiing (we’d headed to Heaven, where the sweeping, glittering runs from the Heaven Express chairlift on the Blackcomb side were in sublime condition). They were even showing football on the big screens. It doesn’t get much better than this. Yes, ok, I admit the picture does look somehow inappropriate – but all above board and totally part of journalistic research.
The marked contrast between Sun Peaks and Whistler, both great in their own way, emphasises the value of a two-centre trip (or more if you have time) to British Columbia – a mini ski safari. Appropriate, as it has been organised by the British company Ski Safari and we were enjoying our Bulldogs in the company of Matt Pavitt, the firm’s managing director.
We were checking out for our readers the state of the runs and the state of the entertainment, hospitality and infrastructure available to holidaymakers. Mr Pavitt was double-checking the quality of the product he was selling to his clients, many of whom love the ski safari concept. Yes, that’s right, we were all working – hard.
It has been a trip of new experiences – even before the Bulldogs and bar-room massage. We reached Whistler from Sun Peaks via the majestic Duffy Lake Road. In the daytime it’s fabulously scenic, at night it would be downright scary. Sections of it are tortuously twisty, with some sheer drops. In the dark it’s better to go the long way between the two resorts, via Vancouver.
Even the shorter way over the mountains took us about six hours – but not to be missed, as long as driver and tyres are up to scratch. The route took us past the town of Lillooet, the starting point of the old Gold Rush Trail to the Cariboo. With sightseeing stops, many travellers take ten hours to make the trip. A little north of Whistler, some like to make a stop at the Pemberton Whisky Distillery, which offers tastings and tours – but feeling a little like pioneers who had forged a hazardous trail to the west, we pressed on to our goal.
The luxury of the Delta Suites hotel was waiting, as well as the fabulous seafood towers at Araxi and a ride in the bobsleigh in the cavernous cellars of the marvellous Bearfoot Bistro (followed by a modest tasting menu from chef extraordinaire Melissa Craig of wild mushroom soup with thyme truffle cream, salmon with caviar, scallops, quail breast with black truffle, elk tenderloin and nitro ice-cream accompanied by maple whiskey). Whistler knows how to treat weary wanderers who have braved the wilderness trail west.
Rob travelled with Ski Safari. A 10 night Whistler Peaks Safari, including accommodation at the four-star
Sun Peaks Grand, and the four-star Delta Whistler Village Suites starts at £1509 per person for March 2015 departures (based on 2 adults sharing). Prices include flights, transfers and accommodation. For more information on skiing in Canada, visit our Canada resort guides section.